Let me start by saying I don’t know how to talk about race or racism.
I could easily say it’s because I was homeschooled and Black history wasn’t covered in our “curriculum”. I could say it’s because my parents thought that racism would go away if we just didn’t talk about it and taught me to look down and be silent if the topic of race was ever mentioned.
But here’s the truth.
I’m a 30 year old woman, and if I don’t know how to meaningfully discuss race and anti-racism then that responsibility falls squarely on my own shoulders.
I haven’t taken the time to learn about the history of racism in our country like I should, so that I can understand it and meaningfully fight against it.
I haven’t lovingly jumped into conversations about race and allowed myself to be embarrassed and corrected as needed because I’ve been afraid to do the wrong thing. And that fear of doing the wrong thing has mean I’ve done virtually nothing except “tried not to be a racist” myself.
And when you compare the fear of “saying the wrong thing” to the number of fears and stressors Black Americans carry – I think we can all agree that the fear of “saying the wrong thing” is 1000% invalid.
I think about a conversation I had with a guy the other week. He told a story about accidentally using the women’s restroom and how scared he felt.
Me: Wait, what were you scared of?
Him: Well, social shaming, obviously.
I didn’t say anything in the moment, but it struck me how different our experiences are. If I used the wrong restroom I would be scared I might be raped. But he was worried someone might make fun of him a little bit. Zero thoughts of personal safety or long-term trauma (or pregnancy!) were even on his radar. Our experiences in this world are very different.
This is a tiny scale and almost comical example of the difference between me worrying I might say the wrong thing, and my Black friends living with the constant fear that someone might consider their existence a threat and it lead to them losing their life.
I’m sickened by the racism I see happening this week, just like I am every time I see racism.
I don’t always talk about it – because I don’t know how. And I’m working to fix that. I’m educating myself about racism and race. And I’m moving into spaces – beyond social media – to try to make a difference in the community.
We need to remember that Social media activism is important, but it’s not the only type of activism and we can’t just stop there.
If you share a meme and then move on, that’s not really anti-racism work. It’s good. Awareness needs to be raised on social media, but take the hurt, confusion and anger that you’re feeling now – offline.
And not just to your kids. Teaching kids not to be racists is an extremely vital thing that white parents need to do. BUT that’s not enough either. It’s easy to say “I’ll raise my children to stand up for you”. Sweet even, right? We picture our children as these radical warriors for justice when they grow up, but…what about us? Isn’t it more important that we fight for there to be less injustice in the world that our kids and their Black peers are growing up in – instead of pushing our responsibility off onto our children to figure out?
Our kids aren’t in this fight right now, but we should be.
Don’t just ask Black friends what to do – and don’t demand that they give you a 10 step plan to help. Our Black friends are hurting and exhausted right now. We don’t need to ask them to do MORE by helping us wade through issues we should be educating ourselves about. Issues we should have already been educating ourselves about.
We need to do the work to figure out how to help fight racism on our own. Even if that means messing up a little bit along the way as we learn. There’s a lot of information on the internet about ways you can help – so find what you need and find a place to start.
This week, I’ve seen countless Black friends and Black run pages post about things white people can do to help – so find those posts and pick an action item or two. I’ve seen them say things like:
Talk to family members – speak out against racism in person.
Get a book about racism – and learn about how racism affects people in our country.
Call a school in an underpriviledged part of your city and ask how you can donate.
- Pay off lunch bills
- Purchase (new) books for their library
- Donate instruments to their music department
- Make a donation to the arts program
… you know, all the things we advocate for in the schools our children attend, see how you can fight just as hard for other kids to have those opportunities too.
Setup a recurring monthly donation to a Black-run charity. Listen, even if it’s just $5 to start. Don’t stop yourself from doing this and doing it regularly.
Find a list of Black-owned small businesses in your area and make sure you’re supporting them. Especially right now when many of them have been closed for so long. Prioritize helping their businesses thrive. This doesn’t mean that we don’t support white-run small businesses or those run by other minorities, but we should do some extra work to be sure that these small businesses thrive, even if they aren’t run by people we know personally.
Find anti racism activists to follow on social media and LISTEN to them. I can’t stress this enough, don’t join these pages to argue or show how much you are doing. Just quietly listen, like and share. Amplify their voices. And if you disagree with something they say – don’t unfollow, just keep listening. You don’t have to agree with everything some one says (or the way they say it) to listen and learn from their experience.
Look for ways in your city you can help. Send an email or make a phone call and see what you can do. But – only do this if you’re willing to help for an extended period of time. Don’t just do this until you stop “feeling guilty”.
Join in for the long haul. Because racism isn’t going to just magically evaporate if we wait it out. We have to start fighting racism ourselves, in our own communities.